Dear reader,

A caveat.

Everything posted here is worth thinking about. On the other hand, the ideas and opinions put forth may not be right.

Curated and annotated by Timoni West.

March 26th, 2014
But if marriage isn’t a big deal, why…does the right wing fight so hard — and spend so much of their hard-earned money — to keep it a privilege available only to heterosexuals? Their behavior shows that it is a very big deal. The freedom to marry is part of what it means to be an adult in Western culture.

tim | Against Tolerance

Wonderful essay by a Mozilla engineer about Mozilla’s new CEO, who supported the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8.

March 25th, 2014

List of recommended tech women events and groups in NYC

Yesterday I wrote a tweet asking for recommendations for women’s tech/internet groups in NYC. Here’s a list of the ones that were mentioned:

Additionally, @beerops mentioned she’s organizing a new one now!

Thanks to everyone who responded.

More recommendations still welcome; ping me on Twitter or reply to this post. I’m a designer, not an engineer, although I do front-end work, so meetups for designers are especially welcome.


March 24th, 2014
When we finish our design, and put it in front of our customer, the bucket looks like a bucket. It is comfortably familiar and ordinary at a glance. But as the customer interacts with the bucket, what is familiar fades away, and what is left is something new. The customer is delighted because we have changed their perspective of what a bucket can be.

Super Normal, by Dave Morin, on Medium.

This article on Super Normal is concerning, because I, too, am a fan of the concept, and want to clarify some potential misunderstandings that may come up if you’re introduced to it by Morin’s Medium post.

First, here’s the seminal exhibit book on the subject, from the 2006 exhibit. The term Super Normal was coined recently, and the followup exhibition was the result of a partnership between the Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa and the British designer Jasper Morrison.

Super Normal is not a Japanese philosophy. In fact, it seems much closer to a design philosophy of the Platonic ideal than, say, the very famous Japanese aesthetic, wabi-sabi, which celebrates simplicity, imperfections, and incompleteness—perhaps not always, but potentially, the opposite of Super Normal.

I specifically quoted Morin’s advice about ‘the familiar fading away’ and ‘delight’ because it is not in line with what happens when you encounter a Super Normal object without context. If an object is well-designed, or even perfectly designed, equipped with the essentials, it will generally not produce delight and surprise.

Instead, it will seem correct. It will not annoy; it will be trusted, and it will be often used. But the key to Super Normal objects is their utility is complete and perfect, and thus they will be thoughtlessly, easily used. If you own a Super Normal object, you likely feel a deep fondness for it.

Dave Morin is not the only one who felt Super Normal objects ought to impart more delight: Fukasawa himself ‘confessed to feeling “a bit shocked and a little depressed” on discovering that the aluminum stools he had designed were plonked on the floor for people to sit on at last year’s Milan Furniture Fair, rather than displayed on plinths like other new products. He was worried that no one would notice them.’

But I think he came around. Certainly Morrison embraced the idea whole-heartedly: ‘The objects that really make a difference to our lives are often the least noticeable ones, that don’t try to grab our attention. They’re the things that add something to the atmosphere of our homes and that we’d miss the most if they disappeared. That’s why they’re ‘super normal.’”

By all means, design your app using Super Normal principles. But realize the focus is to get to the essence, the most useful version of the product—not ‘adding a twist’. A Super Normal app may or may not be innovative, but it will embody the carved-down, beautiful essentials.

March 20th, 2014

Short of some weekend hackathon you did with your buddies or an internal tool your company uses that took off unexpectedly, every feature of any product you intend to sell or monetize should strive to be as polished as reasonably possible and function just as your end-user expects it should.

Don’t be one of those startups that delivers broken features with the excuse, “It’s just the M.V.P., we’ll fix it later.” Man up, admit it isn’t good enough, and fix it now.

Otherwise, you’re missing the entire point of the M.V.P. in the first place - to iterate quickly on small features based on customer feedback and measurable data. If it doesn’t work right in the first place, the only feedback you’ll get is likely what you already know.

M.V.P., not M.V.P.O.S.

The tide has already gone this direction, so I don’t need to expound much. But it’s true that releasing a MVP at this point is not the same as releasing a MVP in 2007. Unless your product is genuinely new, has no competition, and is absolutely needed, your MVP needs to focus on what features will make it ‘viable’.

March 18th, 2014
People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.

Andrew Carnegie

March 13th, 2014
I was just noticing that a professional acquaintance of mine just changed jobs for the third time in two years—going from startup to startup to startup without, ostensibly, accomplishing much at any of the companies. They certainly didn’t become huge successes. Yet, for some reason, everybody seems to think he’s really good at what he does. Why?

- - Who’s any good?

I think the answer to this question is: ‘he is really good at what he does, and his job does not directly involve making the company profitable.’ Either that, or he/she is great to work with—which, for most higher-level positions, is the same as being good at their job.

That being said, there is a certain bias assuming that one’s work can be judged by the companies they worked at. While it’s certainly not a bad indication, it’s always best to check out the portfolio —and go with your gut.

Peter maintains that telling lies is the No. 1 reason entrepreneurs fail. Not because telling lies makes you a bad person but because the act of lying plucks you from the present, preventing you from facing what is really going on in your world. Every time you overreport a metric, underreport a cost, are less than honest with a client or a member of your team, you create a false reality and you start living in it.

The Surprisingly Large Cost of Telling Small Lies

I post this because, particularly early on my career, I noticed a lot of number fudging on company presentations. I never saw the point of it: if things are bad, it’s time to consider change one’s focus or direction, not change the graph axis.

If the TV show had a completely different ending, that would be one thing, but if the TV show is going to reveal who gets the Iron Throne, who Jon Snow’s parents are and explain the motivations of the Others/White Walkers, and that’s the same information as will eventually come out in the books, then it will constitute the biggest and most expensive spoilering of the end of a book in history.

The Wertzone: HBO confirms seven-season plan for GAME OF THRONES

Interesting conundrum, here. Leave the TV show unfinished, finish it differently*, or speed up the books?

*Which opens up another can of worms, since the TV show has been fairly canonical so far. Being able to pick-and-choose your favorite ending based on the medium seems, ultimately, incredibly unsatisfying.

March 10th, 2014


When we launched VHX, we never imagined we’d get to work with creators like Kevin Spacey, Dave Grohl, Ira Glass, and Aziz Ansari.

We’ve been in private beta the last two years, helping distribute feature films, documentaries, TV shows, comedy specials, concerts, lectures and more. We’ve helped launch Camp Takota, Upstream Color, Mistaken for Strangers, the Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing, and many more. VHX now has over 300 titles available for sale, over $3M in gross transactions, and almost 500,000 customers worldwide.

And we are so excited for our next moves. 

VHX is now open to the public. Anyone can sign up and start selling immediately. Our internet-video-shaped doors are wide open:

We are lowering our pricing. VHX is free to sign up and use, and we charge just 10% + $0.50 per transaction (down from 15-20%). No extra charges for credit card processing or anything – that’s everything. Transparency? Transparency. If you’re an existing publisher this pricing will be effective as of March 1st. 

Anything that used to be sold on DVD can be sold on VHX. Our platform works for a lot more than just film and TV. Faith, fitness, lifestyle, education…the list goes on. VHX also works for organizations both big and small: individuals, distributors, studios, networks, and more. Make a site to sell your work, distribute your project, and own the relationship with your audience. VHX is the technology platform that lets you run your own iTunes or Netflix. Your digital copies replace the old physical, anywhere in the world.

Check out our fancy new homepage to learn more and start building your site. Contact us with any questions or feedback. We can’t wait to work with you!

March 9th, 2014
…Organizations which design systems…are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.

from How Do Committees Invent?, by Melvin Conway.

This is Conway’s Law.

(It is incidentally also a good example of why you shouldn’t put a needless parenthetical in your thesis statement, because then everybody has to use ellipses when they quote you.)

March 7th, 2014
March 3rd, 2014

(Source: starbrain, via 2087)